White Swan, Vere Street

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The White Swan on Vere Street, Clare Market (not to be confused with Vere Street off Oxford Street) in London was established as a Molly House in early 1810 by two men, James Cook and Yardley, who realised the lack of gay brothels in the city offered a business opportunity for them (Yardley claimed to be straight with a wife and purely in it for the money).

The club had been operating for less than six months when, on 8 July 1810, it was raided by the Bow Street police. Twenty-seven men were arrested, but in the end, the majority of them were released, eight were tried and convicted.

Six of the convicted men, who had been found guilty of attempted sodomy, were pilloried in the Haymarket on 27 September that year. The crowds who turned out to witness the scene were violent and unruly, throwing various objects (including rotten fish, dead cats, "cannonballs" made of mud, and of course, vegetables) at the convicted men. The women in the crowd were reported as being particularly vicious. The city provided a guard force of 200 armed constables, half of them mounted and the other half on foot, to protect the men from even worse mistreatment.

John Hepburn (46) and Thomas White (16, a drummer boy), were convicted of the act of sodomy, despite not being present at the White Swan during the night of the raid. The pair was hanged at Newgate Prison on 7 March 1811.

Vere Street Coterie is also known in connection with alleged same sex marriages there, performed by Reverend John Church.

The entire history of the White Swan and the Vere Street Coterie were related by the lawyer Robert Holloway, who published a book about it called The Phoenix of Sodom, or The Vere Street Coterie (London, 1813).

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